Film Dacoit Queen gets Political Lesson

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BANGALORE ~ Pooja Gandhi, a popular Kannada actress, is being forced out as the Janata Dal-Secular’s youth wing working president. This is because she played the role of a murderous dacoit in the film Dandupalya. The film is based on a real story about a gang of killers from a village by the same name as the film. Dandupalya is 30 km from Bangalore. Residents of the village are also upset with the film as it labels them as killers.

In January, Gandhi joined the party headed by former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda with much fanfare. The intention was to lure young voters. But she turned out to be a liability, it would seem. The film gave the state opposition a chance to call the party a “gang of dacoits’’ and Gandhi their “queen”.

HD Kumaraswamy, former Karnataka Chief Minister and Gowda’s son, said his party did not need the endorsement of film stars, even as Gandhi refused to resign. (“I have earned my post, I will not quit the party,’’ she said.) Kumaraswamy’s statement is surprising. He is a film producer who knows what glam quotient can do for a party with a sagging morale.

The mention of the Dandupalya gang evokes dread even today. Their modus operandi involved woman members approaching the targeted house for menial jobs. Once they identified places where valuables were kept, their male colleagues swung into action. They would not hesitate to murder. Many of the gang members are now in prison and ten of them have been awarded death sentences. Gandhi plays the role of one of these women, a vampish one who shows off plenty of skin and entraps her victims.

Villagers protested against the film, even though its director, producer and actors, including Gandhi, had visited Dandupalya, seeking to assuage feelings. But Venkatesh M, a former panchayat member, says people from Dandupalya have suffered enough already. “Our youth don’t get jobs the moment they say they are from Dandupalya,” he says, “Even police verification for passports is always delayed.”